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CANINE CONNECTION: Paws in good hands at new vet clinic

At one point in my life I wanted to be a veterinarian. But then I met math.

At one point in my life I wanted to be a veterinarian. But then I met math.

Math and I had a rocky relationship since the day we met and when math brought pi to the table, I finally ended our relationship, which meant the end of my dream to be a veterinarian.

It was not meant to be but the field of animal health still intrigued me. So when I was invited to tour the North Shore’s new 24-hour animal emergency clinic, I jumped at the chance!

The first thing I noticed when I walked through the front door of Mountainside Animal Hospital is the relaxing ambiance. The spectacular view of Grouse Mountain, the feng shui décor, the relaxing Tibetan singing bowl music in the background and the image of a babbling brook on a big screen made me feel at ease.

According to Walt Ruloff – the clinic’s chief executive officer – it was intentional. In fact everything about the clinic was done with great forethought from the ground up when the property was purchased in 2014.

From the elevator in the underground parking lot to the ease of movement from one treatment area to the next, to the generous staff room with a rooftop patio, this 24-hour emergency, full service, critical care hospital that serves pet owners from Pemberton to North Burnaby is the most technologically advanced clinic in Western Canada. It is the Vancouver General Hospital of animal care.

Like a page out of a Temple Grandin research paper on how to minimize animal stress, there is a calm flowing energy through the clinic. Medical director Dr. Alastair Westcott is acutely aware of the strain experienced by people and their animals when in medical distress. The clinic is designed to minimize that stress.

Despite the scale and size of the clinic, it is not intimidating and neither are the prices.

The cost of treating your pet is still competitive with other veterinary clinics and even though it is a 24-hour emergency clinic it is also a traditional clinic. Both Ruloff and Westcott stressed that they are hoping to create a symbiotic relationship with other clinics on the North Shore since they are now able to provide services that were at least one bridge crossing away.

Their minimally invasive surgery suite offers arthroscopic and laparoscopic surgery so that highly invasive surgeries (such as a spay which is the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs and typically requires large incisions and many internal and external stitches) can be done with minimal invasion and have a dog out of the hospital within a couple of hours without the usual two-week recovery time. As Dr. Westcott says, “We can do big things through little holes.”

As I toured the triage area clutching my pen and paper to prevent my wandering hands from tinkering with the medical equipment, my mind wandered into the world of “what if…”

And it was while watching the genuine rapport between Dr. Westcott and his staff that I was reminded that the clinic is locally owned and operated without the influence of a large corporation. This personal touch allows for a James Herriot-like environment where the vet is part of the community and therefore the needs of the community are understood.

All of the staff and veterinarians live on the North Shore as well, giving them the opportunity to remain in touch with current pet health care issues unique to the area. Despite the sterile hospital setting, they are still the friendly vet clinic next door.

I left the tour with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, not only for how lucky the residents of North Vancouver are for having this hospital built in their backyard and providing them with an opportunity for world class health service, but also for giving me an opportunity to add to a chapter in my life that had always felt unfinished.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation.